David Louis Edelman, author of Infoquake and Multireal, wrote this article on what he likes to see in a review as an author. I found it rather interesting and think his criteria are good ones to strive for.

I found this on Post-Weird Thoughts today and am glad I did since I may have missed it otherwise.

Now off to write The Graveyard Book review so I can have it ready for Halloween!


Being the Amazon addict I am, I logged on today to discover the new cover art for Corambis is up! Corambis is the fourth book in Sarah Monette’s riveting “The Doctrine of Labyrinth” series and is scheduled for release on April 7 of 2009. To read a brief description of the book, go here.

The previous books in this series were my absolute favorite books of this year, so I am very much looking forward to this one. It’s definitely my most anticipated book of 2009.

Elizabeth Bear’s latest novel and the first book in The Edda of Burdens series, All the Windwracked Stars, comes out tomorrow. This is her first hardcover novel other than A Companion to Wolves, co-written with Sarah Monette (which I think is fantastic since all her books I’ve read so far are ones I’d want in hardcover). Chapter One is available here and the next two chapters are linked from the bottom of the page. Happy reading!


Since Friday is Halloween, I decided it was a good time to read and review the newest from Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book. If you are a fan of his, don’t wait for the review to read the book! I absolutely loved it and it was my favorite of his novels I’ve read so far. (Other than that one, those would be Neverwhere, Stardust, Anansi Boys, and Good Omens, the novel he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett. I have not yet read American Gods; I know that’s a tragedy of epic proportions, especially since it is on my bookshelf. Of course, I’ve read all of Sandman, but that was incredible and surpasses any of the novels.)

Right now, I am a little more than halfway through The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt, which will be the next book reviewed. After that, the next books I read will be The Jackal of Nar by John Marco and All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear. Then there will probably be some space opera but I still have Nation on the to-read pile so that’s a possibility too.

Ink and Steel
by Elizabeth Bear
448pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.86/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.85/5

“The Stratford Man” is the title of the two newest books in Elizabeth Bear’s “Promethean Age” series, Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth. These two novels were supposed to be one book, but the finished story was too long for that and had to be split into two. Although there are two previous books in the Promethean Age series (Blood and Iron and Whiskey and Water), these take place after the newer two books and can be read either before or after as long as the first book in each duology is read before its sequel. I would recommend that readers interested in history and literature, Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Elizabethan times begin with Ink and Steel and those who enjoy mythology or stories taking place in modern settings begin with Blood and Iron. “The Stratford Man” duology is the more polished, stronger set although I personally enjoyed Blood and Iron the most of any of the books in this series.

Ink and Steel begins with the death of Kit Marley, who was murdered for his service to Queen Elizabeth as a member of the Prometheus Club. Soon after he is killed, his roommate and fellow writer Will Shakespeare is tested for his allegiance to the queen and found worthy of succeeding Kit by writing magical plays to inspire loyalty toward her. Will is taken to meet the rest of the Prometheus Club and discovers that Francis Walsingham, believed dead for 3 years is still alive and part of the order. With the knowledge of his predecessor’s fate, Will reluctantly agrees to write plays for them due to his loyalty to Queen Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, Kit awakens in Faerie where he has been saved by the Faerie Queen as a favor to Elizabeth. He is knighted by Morgan le Fey, who tended his wounds and gave him a drink – meaning he can not return the mortal world permanently. Kit now must trade his fealty to Queen Elizabeth to the Mebd, the queen of Faerie. However, in a world in which “All stories are true” the two faerie queens represent each other and supporting the reign of one strengthens the reign of the other. Kit returns to the mortal world when he can, reveals himself to the rest of the Prometheus Club, and remains influential in politics in both realms.

Hell and Earth
by Elizabeth Bear
432pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8.75/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.85/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.21/5

“The Stratford Man” is split up into five acts with each act containing a number of scenes. Ink and Steel contains the first three acts and Hell and Earth contains the latter two. Each section has a quote from Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets or Marlowe’s plays.

As can be expected from Elizabeth Bear, the prose is exquisite and descriptive without being verbose. The dialogue is often clever and speech is written in a way that feels like Olde English without being authentic (and is therefore not as difficult to parse). A few words that were not modern day English were included but there was normally enough context to guess what they meant. The other Promethean Age books also have a rich vocabulary and part of the fun in reading them is looking up the words or references I don’t know or would like to know more about.

Although the afterword says that these books are not historically accurate, there are plenty of characters from the time period and Bear ties several theories about the life of Christopher Marlowe into the tale, such as speculation that his death was faked, he was an atheist, a spy for the queen, a homosexual, and a magician. The story also embellishes on real events, such as Marlowe’s near failure to be allowed to graduate for possibly attending a Catholic college until it is revealed that he was performing a service for his country.

These two books were tighter and more mature than the two previous “Promethean Age” novels. I enjoyed the characters, mythological references, dark feel, and prose in Blood and Iron immensely, but felt that Whiskey and Water was weaker, particularly in the vast number of characters that had spotlight. As in the first book in the series, these two contain a vast number of characters including many Englishman from the time and well-known legends such as Morgan le Fey, Puck, and Lucifer. However, the main focus is on the two characters of Kit Marley and Will Shakespeare, which made for a much better story. Both of them are well-developed characters one can identify with and care about and their dilemmas are truly tragic.

“The Stratford Man” duology is not a light read but is an immensely satisfying one with rich prose, deep characters, political maneuvering, and lots of imagination. I hope the rest of the planned books in this series are eventually written and published.


Excerpts from Ink and Steel:
Act I Scene I
Act I Scene II
Act I Scene III

Reviews of other books in this series:
Blood and Iron
Whiskey and Water

The Way of Shadows
by Brent Weeks
688pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.58/5

Note: This review may contain spoilers. I always try to give a little bit of detail on the plot without mentioning anything I wouldn’t want to know before reading the book myself and didn’t think there were any major spoilers in this review… But I noticed that the author mentioned on his site this review contained spoilers. So I’m adding a warning because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone!

The Way of Shadows
is the debut novel of Brent Weeks and the first book in “The Night Angel Trilogy.” Although this book was released only last month, the rest of the books in the trilogy will be available by the end of the year. Shadow’s Edge, the second book, is scheduled to be out on October 28 but is already on the shelves in some bookstores (at least it was at my local Borders the beginning of this week). The final novel in the series, Beyond the Shadows, has a release date of November 25.

Azoth and his two friends, a boy named Jarl and a mute only known as “Doll Girl,” live in the slums among other children. He dreams of becoming the apprentice of Durzo Blint, the legendary wetboy (an assassin with magical abilities), and being able to keep Doll Girl and Jarl from harm. Azoth encounters Durzo on a few occasions and begs him to teach him his craft. After several refusals, Durzo agrees to train Azoth under one condition – he must kill Rat, a violent older boy who terrorizes the other children. As a sympathetic boy who tends to look out for his friends, Azoth is unable to complete this task until Rat hurts Doll Girl. With Rat dead, Durzo accepts Azoth as his apprentice but tells him he must leave his old life behind, including his friendships with Jarl and Doll Girl. Durzo fakes the death of Azoth and gives him the new identity of Kylar Stern, a young nobleman of a minor family.

Throughout the years, Kylar learns about fighting and poisons from Durzo but cannot use his magical Talent no matter how hard he tries. Although he becomes a very capable assassin under Durzo’s tutelage, he can never truly be a wetboy without the Talent. In addition to attempting to develop his magical abilities, Kylar struggles with leaving the past behind. He has always cared about Doll Girl and feels responsible for the scars Rat left her, so he arranged for her to live with a nice family and sends her part of his allowance. Occasionally, he watches her from afar but Durzo has forbidden any interaction with her on the grounds that a proper wetboy should not love. He knows from personal experience that those you care about can be used against you by enemies.

The Way of Shadows
is a rather long book at almost 700 pages but it seems shorter since it lacks long descriptions, has a lot of dialogue, and has great pacing that keeps the pages turning. It was not a book that was terribly original with a fairly standard fantasy setting containing kings, dukes, swordfighting, assassins (yes, they may be called wetboys but they’re really just a higher level assassin aided by magic), war and conflict, mages, and prophets. Yet there are two more books and the premise of the Night Angel revealed toward the end has potential for an interesting backstory and mythological basis.

The book contains a lot of focus on characters, and although they are likable and not completely one dimensional, I felt that they could have had more depth. Kylar is a basically good-hearted assassin who is reluctant to kill innocents. Underneath the tough exterior, Durzo has a heart as well and has just grown better accustomed to hiding it over the years. It is not that the characters are shallow; they just have the personality traits you often read about when trying to make someone with an immoral job into someone a reader can have sympathy for. I did care about what happened to Kylar and Durzo but I was never devastated when tragedy befell either of them to the extent I should have been.

On the subject of tragedy, it does happen and the story can be somewhat dark although it never seemed shockingly so to me. For instance, it was not nearly as brutal as Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

One minor quibble I had with the book was calling the assassins “wetboys.” They’re supposed to be so much better than an assassin but with a name like that, they do not sound tough at all. It sounds like they should be the guys that fetch water for all the important people instead of killers inspiring fear in the hearts of their enemies.

The Way of Shadows is a fast-paced, entertaining read that is difficult to put down. It is not particularly unique, but it is a very fun book.


Read Chapter One

Other reviews: